St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman offered his last-minute endorsement in the District 7 City Council race with a not-surprising pick: Lisa Wheeler-Brown.
A defining issue between the two otherwise aligned candidates has been their stances on a deal between the city and the Tampa Bay Rays that would allow the major league baseball team to look outside the city for a new stadium site.
Will Newton thinks the plan hashed out by Kriseman with the team’s leadership isn’t quite good enough for the city while Wheeler-Brown said she would support it.
Those opinions led to Wheeler-Brown nabbing an endorsement from the Tampa Bay Times – a huge deal in a local election – and not Newton.
But that’s not why Kriseman said he’s backing Wheeler-Brown.
“I have known Will Newton for many years and respect his service to our community,” Kriseman said. “What I don’t respect are the recent attacks against his opponent, Lisa Wheeler-Brown.”
Kriseman’s statement is just another in a long line of complaints from residents about negativity swirling throughout the District 7 campaigns. Most of the mudslinging has been directed at Wheeler-Brown with only one major allegation – one about a $32,000 tax lien – against Newton.
The latest allegation against Wheeler-Brown involved questions about a foundation created in her slain son’s name. Proper paperwork was not filed for that foundation because, according to Wheeler-Brown’s campaign, it stalled after raising only $300.
But a website listed estimated revenue at more than $80,000. That number was proven to be completely arbitrary, leading Wheeler-Brown’s campaign to accuse Newton of incorrectly arguing she had profited from her son’s murder.
That claim has left a bad taste in a lot of voters’ mouths.
“It has become clear to me that Lisa is best able to elevate the discourse in City Hall and be the better council member. She is an inspiring leader who will represent the residents of District 7 and St. Petersburg with passion and decency,” Kriseman said. “Please join me in voting for Lisa Wheeler-Brown on Tuesday.”
It’s estimated that more than half of voters voting in this race already have cast ballots. However, for those who are waiting until Tuesday to cast a ballot at their precinct, the Kriseman endorsement could be the final push Wheeler-Brown needs to cruise to victory on election night.
“I’m truly honored to have Mayor Kriseman’s support,” Wheeler-Brown said. “He and I have worked together for years to move our city forward. I’m ready to work with him, the rest of council, and the people of St. Petersburg to make our streets safer, improve education for our children, and create jobs that we can raise our families on.”
The endorsement could even smooth over any concerns still lingering about Wheeler-Brown’s extensive campaign finance mistakes including an expense for personal dental work, failure to report in-kind contributions and a slew of reporting errors.
A poll conducted this past weekend put Wheeler-Brown 11 points ahead of Newton heading into Election Day.